Aug 10, 2010, 08:20AM

The Rise of Slutwave

Everyone loves an attention-seeking slut.

Lady gaga.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

When I Love the 2010's airs in 10 or 20 years, Lady GaGa will define our era’s popular music. A semi-interesting artist and a shrewd self-promoter, GaGa has gone from literally nobody to the biggest celebrity in the world in just four years, an astonishing and confusing accomplishment that deserves some respect. Focusing on her image more than her music, GaGa has presented herself as a kind of modern provocateur, daring to do what no one else will and wear what no one else would ever think of. Most of it's bullshit of course, and I'm still not convinced she's more than a flash in the pan musically (with only an album and a half to her name, GaGa hasn't released any new music in almost a year, despite extreme overexposure). But GaGa’s at the forefront of a contemporary cadre of young female lead singers who use sex appeal in a more conspicuous way than ever before. Artists like GaGa, Ke$ha, and Katy Perry are leading the way in Slutwave.

A Slutwave artist follows a pretty simple formula: be reasonably attractive, don't wear clothes, get a handful of super catchy songs built for saturation, and boom, you've got Katy Perry on The Today Show, or GaGa at Lollapalooza. And while GaGa is certainly more adept at marketing herself and playing up the fashion aspect of her art, those bizarre outfits are only justification to stare at her body, drool slipping from one's lips. Ke$ha is more brutish and to the point, bragging about making out with chicks, digging clothes out of dumpsters, drinking too much, and being stupid. Perry embraces the same disarmingly blunt tone, freely talking about Googling herself, craving attention, being manipulative, and getting high with Snoop Dogg. Posing in her underwear on the cover of the most recent issue of Rolling Stone, Perry has also identified herself as a slut riding the wave.

It's funny thinking back when Britney Spears first broke through, and how she caused stirrings in the young and old with her video for "Baby One More Time" and that Rolling Stone cover. With Britney and her contemporaries though, sex was never the main idea, although it was certainly there, pushed by horny record executives appealing to boys of all ages. But even just 10 years ago, pop stars of Britney's caliber like N*SYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Christina Aguilera functioned like role models, attracting millions of fans while trying to set a good example or at least being palatable to parents. Slutwave offers no such positive, appealing more conspicuously to horny young men and "wild, stupid, drunk" girls. Like Ke$ha.

Those same teenyboppers who once worshipped Britney and Justin are at the foot of Miley's altar now, or Justin Bieber's. Slutwave isn't teaching preteens to be promiscuous/stupid, and its target audience skews a little older than Britney's did in the early 2000s. I'm curious to see where this aesthetic goes in the future. Because really, where can it go without becoming pornography? A photo was leaked a couple of months ago of Ke$ha covered in semen, with a dazed "I've-just-been-fucked" look and a general aura of slut. Stunts like this, and GaGa throwing herself into the crowd to be groped and licked at Lollapalooza, would've sunk these stars just a decade ago. But now, it's part of their m.o., people would feel gypped if they didn't get to see some skin/genitalia. Wherever the Slutwave happens to crest, a camera will be there, and it will be glorious.

  • Couldn't agree more Nicky. Although I'd say slutwave started with the inexplicable rise of Paris Hilton

    Responses to this comment
  • "...a contemporary cadre of young female lead singers who use sex appeal in a more conspicuous way than ever before." I don't know, man. It's always been about sex -- pre-Britney and post-Britney; pre-Madonna and post-Madonna; pre-[Fill-In-Whatever-Pop-Star-You-Want]... etc., you get the point. I think we're just talking about what kind of sex appeal is marketed. The Gaga Generation of pop stars is more akin to a Girls Gone Wild video than anything else, with their "That Slut Will Do Anything" appeal, whereas Britney & Co. was just using the whole Girl-Next-Door, Oh-So-Innocent-But-Oh-So-Eager thing. Neither is more about sex than the other, they just work with different fetishes. I'm also not sure I buy that Britney & Co. ever "functioned like role models." In fact Aguilera in particular hated that shit -- remember her "Dirty" video? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kaej4Wjkj1Q You wanna talk Slutwave, there you go. There's also a Technology Gap here: Sure, there's that photo of Ke$ha all cum covered, but if everyone had had cam phones and was sexting back when "Hit Me Baby..." came out in '98, we probably would have seen Bukkake Britney pics too. Instead, we had to settle for the Pam and Tommy Lee honeymoon sex tape on cassette. Sadly mine got stuck in the VCR years ago, and I never could pry it out.

    Responses to this comment
  • You're joking about Pam and Tommy Lee. Please tell me that's so.

    Responses to this comment
  • Nay, woman. 'Tis no joke.

    Responses to this comment
  • It's all a sham. These girls are saving themselves for marriage.

    Responses to this comment
  • while i take your point about slutwave, it really isn't anything new in terms of pop culture. advertisers figured out long ago that it is all about sex, i mean if you look back to the 19th century when women didn't wear make up, those who did were considered SLUTS and PROSTITUTES. certain kinds of dress were more or less provocative, so i don't think this is particular to our era. i do think you're spot on though in terms of the good girl next door image of, say, britney and christina, but who could only advance careerwise by becoming a Slave 4 U and Dirrrty. I am offended that you put Gaga at the top of the list of this slutwave generation, even that you put her in the same paragraph as Ke-Dollar Sign -Ha or Katy Perry. 1) Gaga is no flash in the pan, she has waaaaaaay to many fans for that. 2) Gaga has all along been about distortion of the female body, so she's glamorous or sexy at the same time as she's grotesque and mechanical. If she's being sexy now, I'm sure it's meant to provoke, and i'm also sure that it's all part of the theme of her next album.

  • I know you're a Gaga hag, and you write well about her. I went to see her at the Garden, just out of curiosity (and taking my niece) and was unmoved. You're right about the history of sluttiness, but in this era give credit to Madonna's smokin' "Justify My Love" video as a precursor to what's going on today.

    Responses to this comment
  • PoMoMad is right in that Gaga is a more complicated case. In fact didn't Splice have—or at least link to—a brilliant article pointing out that Gaga actually takes fetishistic and exploitative images and *de*sexualizes them, *de*fetishizes them, and stars right back at the male gaze through an obscured female one? And Katy Perry likewise, seems very in control of her sexuality—you couldn't make the "California Gurls" video as pitch-perfect as it is without being utterly self-possessed and knowing exactly how to wield your sexuality, sensuality, and sex appeal as a tool...and a weapon...and an art. Perry is neo-burlesque, plain and simple, and we all know what good neo-burlesque is—stripping with a grin, a Master's degree, and the knowledge that you're never going to give away the whole show. ...Oh, but Ke$ha's a skank, true dat.

    Responses to this comment

Register or Login to leave a comment